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Cultural Capital - How to get this right. (cert-4-£1)

Updated: May 15, 2021

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What is Cultural Capital?

The new Ofsted Early Years Inspection Framework (Sep 19) introduced the term “Cultural Capital”.

The framework states:

“Cultural capital is the essential knowledge that children need to prepare them for their future success. It is about giving children the best possible start to their early education. As part of making a judgment about the quality of education, inspectors will consider how well leaders use the curriculum to enhance the experience and opportunities available to children, particularly the most disadvantaged […]

The framework goes on to state:

“Some children arrive at an early years setting with different experiences from others, in their learning and play. What a setting does, through the EYFS curriculum and interactions with practitioners potentially makes all the difference to children. It is the role of the setting to help the children experience the awe and wonder of the world in which they live, through the seven areas of learning”.

Following the announcement of the new framework, there was a real wave of insecurity within the early years community surrounding this “new” concept - “Cultural Capital” – a complex term that most of us would associate with deeper sociological study.

Put simply, cultural capital is about developing knowledge, skills and behaviours to succeed and get on in life.

What can we use as evidence that children’s cultural capital is being promoted?

We are often asked this question, with practitioners and leaders assuming they need to attend specific training on the topic and spend hours of their time researching its meaning.

Here’s the secret! - the essence of cultural capital already lies within the EYFS!

Rest assured– we do not need a sociology degree to be confident that we are already enhancing children’s cultural capital. All we need to do is continue to:

· Use our knowledge from regular observations of children.

· Work as key persons.

· Use what we know of the children’s home lives to develop children’s experiences and learning. (For example, If you know a child has limited access to outdoor play at home, provide them with opportunities to explore the outdoor environment at the setting.

· Ensure all children (especially the disadvantaged) have access to a wide range of experiences and opportunities.

The good news? - If we have already been demonstrating good practice within the EYFS, we will already be enhancing children's cultural capital!

What about the terms “Awe and Wonder” and “Effective Citizens?”

As part of “Cultural Capital” The EIF also states that we should:

· Help children experience the “Awe and Wonder” of the world in which they live


· provide children with the knowledge they need to be “Effective Citizens”.

Some more good news?- As long as we are demonstrating good practice within the EYFS, we will already be doing this too!

So let’s make sure that we feel confident to talk to the inspector about how we build activities around the children’s interests.

This may include:

· finding books on a child’s favourite topic

· creating role-play activities that further their interest in a particular idea

· exploring the local community

· or organising visits from community figures such as the fire service.

What is important is that we feel confident to explain why we have chosen a particular activity and how it will benefit the child’s learning and development.

Rather than looking for a hidden meaning in the phrase, practitioners should continue to focus on giving each child the best start in life and the support that enables them to fulfil their full potential.

How Cultural Capital links to the EYFS

If you’re keen to have some more concrete examples, we’ve taken each aspect within the EYFS 7 areas of learning (something we are all very familiar with) and demonstrated how our everyday observations of the children will naturally and effortlessly provide evidence of cultural capital, including “awe and wonder” and “effective citizenship”.

Some areas such as Literacy and Understanding of the World lend themselves very nicely to cultural capital. This list is not exhaustive but demonstrates that we ARE enhancing cultural capital already - we just need the confidence to celebrate this with the inspector when the time comes!

Personal, social and emotional development:

Making relationships

Under 3s - Seeks to gain attention in a variety of ways, drawing others into social interaction.

Over 3s - Takes steps to resolve conflicts with other children, e.g. finding a compromise.

Self confidence and self awareness